Be Kind to Yourself

It just came to me that I spend my days teaching people how to be kinder to themselves, and that this kindness is designed to manifest itself in three major spheres: 1) eating patterns, 2) activity patterns, and 3) rest & relaxation patterns. It’s all about being kind to yourself, about nourishing your heart and soul with better food, more movement, and quality rest. It will be so good for you.

What is it about Americans that we feel we have to make an excuse when we go to bed early, or take vacation time that we’ve earned, or apologize for needing to go for a walk? It boggles the mind, and makes my job even more important.

Not only is it okay, but it’s essential! A good life is filled with nourishing food and rest. A peaceful life includes walking, gardening, yoga or swimming. I saw research recently on how time spent out of doors, around trees, is powerful medicine, too. That’s not surprising to me; I spent a good part of my adolescence in the woods across the street from my house.

In my experience, most folks think they are doing a pretty good job of this, especially if there are children involved. That makes sense to me — after all, who would want to believe that their family eats a mediocre diet? We all hope that we are taking good care of ourselves and our families. But how do you really know?

Do you eat white flour or corn syrup or corn starch or sugar more than once or twice a day? Most people do, because this is where you find low-fat salad dressing, breakfast cereals, ketchup, barbecue sauce, bagels, rolls, croutons, toast, muffins, doughnuts, waffles, pancakes, white bread, cookies, cakes, and many other commercial baked goods. If you’re American and you sometimes eat meals or snacks outside of your home (and that’s most of us), it’s virtually impossible to avoid this stuff. It’s at every turn, in every vending machine, in every coffee shop and restaurant.

Do you eat soybean or corn or cottonseed oil? Or non-dairy creamer or Crisco or margarine? These oils are rampant in America’s processed food supply. All the edible varieties of these industrial fats were invented within the past one hundred years, all are pro-inflammatory, and all have been implicated in the current epidemic of autoimmune disease. Because they are so much cheaper than nutritious fats and oils, they too are virtually impossible to avoid if you ever eat out.

I don’t want you just to feed yourself; I want you to nourish yourself. Eat color. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, and beans of all shapes, colors and sizes. I have some chickpeas sprouting on the kitchen counter right now. Don’t allow foods made from stripped grains (white flour, corn starch) to constitute more than a small proportion of your meals. These things don’t nourish us, they entertain us. Fun is fun, but fun isn’t food. Nourishing yourself is a very kind thing to do. Food is energy, which you convert into many important things, including activity.

The human body was designed to move, and the body that doesn’t move pays a very high price in the long run. I will pay any price to keep my patients mobile.

You’re not training for the Olympics, so there’s no reason to overdo it, injure yourself, and have to sit on your bum for three months while you’re healing. I’m talking about a walk a few days a week. Stretch your neck in the shower, or a couple times a day while your eyes take a break from the computer screen. Play airplane with your babies while they are still small enough, because I promise that they won’t be for long. Ride bikes, or do yoga. You get the idea — just make sure to move around. Movement is a powerful mood stabilizer, and there’s nothing like the satisfying fatigue of a tired body to help you get a good night’s sleep. 

Do you awaken every morning feeling refreshed and relaxed? Do you fall back to sleep easily if you wake up in the middle of the night? Some people like more, and some like less, but when it comes to the inevitable stresses that come every day, do you feel like you’re riding the waves, or are they beating you up? Every brain needs down time, a few minutes of peace and quiet. No brain thrives if it spends every single minute on the hamster wheel, spinning round and round without a moment of rest. Take a deep, slow breath. Then take another one.

One of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your children is to nourish yourself more. Breathe in and out, eat more colors, take a spin. Your body will thank you. 

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